National Recording Preservation Foundation Distributes $50,000 in Grants for Audio Preservation, 2020

For immediate release

December 3, 2020

Press Contact: Gerald Seligman (


The National Recording Preservation Foundation’s Grant Program announced today the awarding of grants for the preservation of music, broadcast and spoken word. The grants cover collections, culture and history housed in United States-based collections. The grants are made possible by funds authorized through The Library of Congress Sound Recording and Film Preservation Programs Reauthorization Act of 2016, secured through the leadership of the Library of Congress, and the contributions of public-spirited donors.

“We are once again proud to help preserve audio recordings in a broad variety of areas by partnering with the country’s most effective archives, not-for-profit media outlets, libraries and foundations,” says NRPF Executive Director Gerald Seligman. “For this series of grants, we sought to support projects in broadcast, music, journalism and spoken word, all the areas of our concentration.”

The National Recording Preservation Foundation mission is to help find, preserve and make accessible the recorded history of the United States and help recuperate collections in libraries, universities, foundations and public broadcasting stations.

The grants went to the following organizations:

For American Folk Art Museum: Digitization of Rare Interviews with ‘Outsider’ Artists

“With support from the National Recording Preservation Foundation, the American Folk Art Museum will digitize rare audio recordings of interviews with folk artists that were recorded by Charles B. and Janice M. Rosenak throughout their travels in the Southeast, Appalachia, and New Mexico from 1967-1988,” says Jason Busch, Director and CEO of the American Folk Art Museum. “These unique recordings capture the voices of some of the most prominent self-taught artists of the 20th century, primarily African American and Native American artists, that have been widely absent from the canon of American art.”

The interviews come from In Their Own Words: Digitizing the Hidden Recordings of Folk Artists’ Interviews from the Rosenak Collection in the American Folk Art Museum Archives.

“The project will enable a wider audience to access recordings of interviews with 26 iconic self-taught artists including Howard Finster, Sam Doyle, William Dawson, Lee Goodie, Malcah Zeldis, Leroy Felipe Archuleta, and others, all of whom are no longer living today,” says Ann-Marie Reilly, Director of Collections and Exhibition Production. “As AFAM prepares to mark its sixtieth anniversary in 2021, the project will be part of a broader celebration of our collection as we mark six decades of leadership in the field of self-taught art.”

For The Friends of Thomas Edison National Historical Park: Work on Extracting High-quality Sound from Sealed Master Molds

“We are gratified to receive this Grant for Audio Preservation from the National Recording Preservation Foundation,” says Larry Fast, Trustee, The Friends of Thomas Edison National Historical Park. “The money will fund research to determine best practices for digitizing Thomas Edison National Historical Park’s priceless collection of disc record ‘Master Molds.’ These metal molds contain the master recordings from inventor Thomas Edison’s catalog of music recorded in New York City and European cities during the 1910s and 1920s. The molds are too fragile to digitize via the traditional stylus-playback method, so we will digitize a pair of molds using the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s “IRENE” system. IRENE uses a non-contact 3-D scanner to recover audio from phonograph records. This is exciting research because an Edison Master Mold has never been digitized using IRENE.”

“For obvious reasons, the Edison archives hold so many of the prized recordings from the earliest years of recorded sound,” says Gerald Seligman. “We honor the importance of the collection and the care being taken to research the best, safest means to extract sound from the masters.”

For Iowa State University: the Digitization of a Diverse Lecture Series recorded from 1972 through the 1990s

Iowa State University has long had one of the most expansive series of lectures in the country. For this project they are focusing on lectures from the 1972 through the 1990s – 1640 hours, 259 reel-to-reel tapes, 732 audiocassettes all to be restored, digitized and made accessible via the university’s own sites and for the general public on their YouTube channel.

“We were impressed by the sheer range of speakers and subjects from the series, a veritable cross-section of culture, politics, the arts and sciences,” says NRPF Executive Director, Gerald Seligman. “Just a short list of some key names will give you an idea of the value of preserving the lectures: Robert Hollinger, Salvadore Allende, Judith Crist, N. Scott Momaday, Seymour Hersh, Ntozake Shange, Frances Fox Piven, Ramsey Clark, Denise Levertov, Maynard Jackson, Angela Davis, Benjamin Spock… the list goes on: Virgil Thompson, Czeslaw Milosz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Arthur Miller – and so many more.”

“We’re excited to honor Iowa State University’s land grant mission in sharing diverse and timely lectures from the Iowa State Lecture Series. Established in 1958 many of the original ISU Lectures speak to the issues our country is grappling with today, namely politics, science, race, gender, and sexuality,” says Rosie Rowe, AV and Film Preservation Specialist at the University. Adds Daniel Hartwig, Head, Special Collections & University Archives, “Our goal for the project is stimulate awareness and discourse, as well as center and magnify these voices and movements.”

The National Recording Preservation Foundation is proud to offer this support.

For The Museum of Russian Culture: Preservation of 200 unique recordings from the Soviet and Tsarist Eras

The Museum of Russian Culture holds a rare and vulnerable collection of early recordings from folk balalaika orchestras to early Soviet dance music, Tsarist-era operatic divas to field recordings of Russian refugees in China. A wide variety of these historical audio documents will be digitized for the first time.

“The museum is very grateful to the NRPF for supporting the preservation and digitization of our collection of Russian musical recordings,” says Yves Franquien, Vice President of the Museum of Russian Culture, San Francisco. “Our archive contains a wide stylistic variety of Russian music produced all over the world, from Moscow to Shanghai, New York to Paris. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to digitize the rarest recordings, make them available online, and integrate them into the main exhibition of our museum.”

“The recordings to be digitized include pre-revolutionary operatic arias produced under Tsar Nicholas II and exceedingly rare Chinese pressings of Russian music marketed to imperial loyalists following the Russian Civil War,” adds Ryan Gourley, Project Manager and Ph.D. student in Ethnomusicology at UC Berkeley. “These are extraordinary objects of immense cultural heritage, some of which have not been listened to for over a century.”

“As part of the Russian Center of San Francisco, the largest hub for Russian cultural activity in the American Pacific Northwest,” says Margarita Meniailenko, Chief Archivist, “the museum is dedicated to peaceful intercultural exchange. We look forward to collaborating with researchers in the United States and abroad on this unique project.”

For University of Alaska Fairbanks: Digitization of Recordings of the Unangax̂ (Alaska Aleut) Peoples

“The ‘Cuttlefish Project’ recordings are of immense Unangax̂ (Alaska Aleut) cultural importance due to not only the topics covered by Elders but because many of them were the last fluent speakers of the Unangam Tunuu language,” says Leslie McCartney, Associate Professor and Curator of Oral History at the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library. “They are of the utmost importance to the Unangax̂ people themselves, for educators around the world who study the diversity of Indigenous people in the United States, and for worldwide linguists and historians.”

Fifty-nine (59) “Cuttlefish Project’ magnetic audio reels will be digitized and made accessible to researchers and the public. Each of the recordings will be cataloged in the UAF Library Catalog via WordCat. URLs will be placed directly into the library catalog record so, worldwide, anyone with an internet connection can listen to the recording directly from the library catalog record.

“We are especially proud to be associated with the Cuttlefish Project and its treasury of recordings,” said Gerald Seligman.


About the NRPF

The National Recording Preservation Foundation (NRPF) is an independent, charitable organization and registered 501(c)(3) entity. The NRPF works across the United States to foster awareness of the diverse perspectives and communities documented in audio, to support the preservation of historical and at-risk audio collections, and to coordinate resources for the digital preservation of audio recordings. The NRPF was mandated through federal charter by the U.S. Congress under the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-474) and was thereafter duly incorporated in 2010.

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